Waste Her is inspired by the 2005 arrests of members of the Earth Liberation Front, and Chelsea Gerlach's subsequent public labeling as arsonist and environmental terrorist. To say that the play is solely "about" environmental terrorism, however, is a disservice to Hendren's thoughtful writing and Summer Olsson's shrewd directorial choices.
Early in the performance, a character named Samantha is summoned to help her semi-estranged sister Jessie out of some sort of mess involving arson, murder and, naturally, prison. The rest of the hour-long performance works to expose the structure of a non-linear story while delving into questions surrounding family and romantic relationships, guilt and blame and purpose and commitment.
Theatre X (UNM's black-box space) provided an ideal blank backdrop for Hendren's highly physical solo work. The stage was adorned with a few trunks, a gasoline can, an end table and a metal folding chair. Because Hendren did not use any props to transition from character to character, she was dependent upon her own voice and physicality to embody multiple characters working to propel the narrative, a task she accomplished with subtlety and precision. Hendren resists the impulse to fall into choices often used by ethnographic performers: at no point does a gesture, accent or physical choice seem to be made for the sole sake of clarity. Instead, her characters are each fully realized human beings who interact with each other and the audience in a way that makes it difficult to choose a favorite because each is both personally attractive and humanly flawed.
While the story includes a criminal tragedy and politically and socially charged issues, Hendren's writing also provides the audience with the space to laugh. During one exchange, Jessie remarks that her sister makes her feel "weird." Her boyfriend responds, "I think that's what family is supposed to do. If they didn't we'd never seek out other people to be with." The Thursday night audience at Theatre X not only laughed during this moment, but strangers shared meaningful glances with one another down each row. Hendren's writing, often focused on those whom we chose to spend our life and time with, resonates through all social spectrums.
One of the four stated missions of the Revolutions Festival is "seeking out and presenting the planet's most revolutionary theatre and performance art." The fact that Juli Hendren just happens to live in Albuquerque generates hope that more residents of the Duke City will eventually be able to see this performance, which truly embodies the term "revolutionary."
Waste Her by Juli Hendren, presented by the Tricklock Company and directed by Summer Olsson, was performed nightly January 13-15 at UNM's Theatre X. The 11th Annual Revolutions International Theatre Festival runs through January 30th with performances in Theatre X, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, The Filling Station, UNM's Rodey Theatre and The Box. A complete calendar of information and reservation information is available at www.tricklock.com/revolutions.